E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Networks of Experts – An Oxymoron

Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogan in the SpringRemember the blog post I put together over here, in this blog, a little while ago under the title "Being Human – What Are You Afraid Of?", where I was referencing another entry by my good friend Euan Semple ("Being Human") as he was introducing the pitch of his upcoming presentation at the Social Business Edge event that webthropologist Stowe Boyd organised earlier on in the month? Well, we now have a recording! And it is good stuff! Check out Social Business Edge Video and reserve about 14 minutes of your time, because it’s worth it every minute of it!

Euan couldn’t make it eventually to New York to participate live, face to face, at the Edge event itself, due, of course, to the now worldwide famous Eyjafjallajökull vulcano, which, as you all well know, has been creating a little bit of trouble in the last few days. [Oh, by the way, allow me to pause here for a minute, before I go on… Have you checked out these couple of very powerful blog posts that the always thought-provoking, and insightful, Rob Paterson put together a few days back? Goodness, once again, he is right on the money, nailing it big time! Very much worth while reading…]

Ok, after that short pause, we are back again. Right, so Euan didn’t make it eventually to the Social Business Edge event, thus he recorded a short video presentation of about 14 minutes long from his home, where he developed further on from his original blog post, which I have referenced above already, on Being Human [at the workplace], back again!, after the last few decades where things have gone totally wrong. Or, at least, not how you would have expected as a knowledge worker of the 21st century’s Knowledge Economy.

Being Human at Social Business Edge from Euan Semple on Vimeo.

There are lots and lots of things I could share about Euan’s presentation, which match, quite nicely, the original blog post I put together on this subject already. However, from all of those things I’d just want to touch base today on one of them; one that I think is rather important for Social Computing to succeed in today’s current corporate environment; and that’s the introduction of (social) networks to carry out the various business tasks versus the traditional concept of what we have been knowing, all along, as experts.

I am not sure what you would think about this, after you watch Euan’s video, but over the course of the years, and way before getting immersed in the social computing world, I have always had a thing for the word and concept of experts. Yes, I know! I’m not the only one who doesn’t like that word at all! There are loads of people out there feeling pretty much the same way as I do, specially when you attach the word expert to whatever other concept (Social Media Experts, Social Marketing Experts, to name a couple…).

But to me it gets even a little bit more awkward when I have always thought that networks and experts put together provoke quite an oxymoron on their own! WOW! I’m sure you may be wondering why, at this point in time, right?? Well, mainly because to me networks have always been about everything but hierarchies or structures; quite the opposite. Networks are unstructured, dynamic, peer based and driven by people wanting to connect with other people for the sake of building further up their personal business relationships while sharing a common passion (for a topic).

Yet, experts is quite the opposite. It’s a hierarchical and rigid structure which presupposes the fact that you, as the expert, knows plenty more than me, as someone who is not an expert, and therefore should be, perhaps, on a higher step of the organisational ladder. To the point where those who consider themselves experts think of themselves as higher to the rest of the already existing hierarchical structures. But are they really?

Well, to me, they aren’t. In fact, over the last few years I have always said that within any company every single individual knowledge worker *is* an expert, in their own area of expertise, whether it is related to their work, their experiences, their know-how, there interests, their connections, their passion(s), whatever; they just know plenty more than you do about their subject matter.

So that automatically makes everyone an expert within any company, which is when I truly find Euan’s pitch so fascinating, because, in a way, he is already introducing the need for that model of work where experts disappear, and, with them, those hierarchies and structures, and all knowledge workers become peers, at the same level, with their own subject matter expertise and it all becomes a network exercise to connect with one another, share their knowledge across, learn what they have just acquired and re-apply it back into their business related tasks.

That way people (Those experts!) no longer hide behind their cubicle(s), nor their email, nor their encrypted, only locally accessible knowledge databases, that only they can access at their own convenience. Instead of living by the motto "Knowledge Is Power", which is typically what experts would live by, we shift towards a new one, "Knowledge Shared Is Power" where the knowledge flow amongst peers becomes ever so much more of an enriching experience that everyone (Including the business!) benefits from!

That’s why I just can’t wait for work around networks (And communities!) to kick in within the corporate world. And forget altogether about experts! There aren’t any experts out there! Let me tell you, we all *are* experts in our own areas of subject matter expertise and no-one can take that away from us! Yes, I do realise that experts are not going to find it any easier any longer while more and more people start, or continue!, to share their knowledge out in the open using social software tools, amongst several other reasons, because not only will they witness how plenty more knowledge will be floating around freely and publicly within the enterprise, but at the same time, those who were initially seeking the experts will eventually be finding out that they themselves were the experts in the first place!

They just didn’t know it, because no-one asked! And we all know what happens with that, right? "We only know what we know when we need to know it". Thus now is the time to fully embrace that corporate environment ruled by peers of networks versus hierarchical structures of experts who were only just hoarding their knowledge for a little bit longer, so they would feel they would be needed by the business, when in reality, that’s not the case. There is a tremendous amount of hidden knowledge, talent and brilliance out there and I feel it’s now a good time to tear down those walled gardens of experts and instead continue to plant the seeds for healthier and stronger networks of networks, communities and whatever other unstructured groupings to unleash, even if a fraction, of the knowledge they possess. The mess that Euan talks about in his video…

Why retain it, when you know everyone else would benefit from it just as much as you do, and as a result of that you are just opening the door to building and sustaining healthier personal business relationships, based on mutual trust bonds built, over time, thanks to those, trivial, but steady, continuous and essential bursts of social capital and knowledge sharing activities. Can you imagine the potential?

Mind-blowing, to say the least!

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